China is not only the world's largest market for the Mercedes S-Class. The V-Class is also very popular with Mao's grandchildren. Because even when the Chinese travel in groups, they don't want to forego a certain luxury.
Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Maybach, fat SUVs from Porsche or Lamborghini and the usual hip flasks from Italy or England - when evening falls in the Sanlitun nightlife district, the PS company in Beijing makes a big splash. But between all the splendid limousines, ostentatious tanks and super sports cars, surprisingly often a Mercedes looms that one would have rarely expected on the boulevard of vanities: the Mercedes V-Class. Because with us still afflicted with the brittle charm of a pimped up commercial vehicle, the space cruiser has long been accepted as a luxury car in China and is therefore gladly taken as a spacious alternative to the S-Class - especially when, as so often, a few colleagues are on the road together and nobody wants to drive afterwards.
Popular business car in China
Nobody knows this better than Adam, who runs his own shuttle service and occasionally sends several dozen cars through the night. "More and more often the S-Class stops and we are asked explicitly about the V-Class," says the service provider, "especially when we drive not for foreign but for local customers." No wonder more than that Half of all V-Classes in China are used as company cars to chauffeur business partners, VIP guests or executives - which is reflected not least in the model names: “Pilot”, “Exclusive” and “Luxury” sounds a little different than "Avantgarde" or "Edition".
You can quickly understand the weakness for the V-Class when you drive through the night with men like Adam. Because in a city where rush hour lasts 24 hours and often only moves at walking pace at midnight, a car cannot be comfortable enough for the passengers. "And space is a very important argument," says Adam, "especially when you are traveling with several people." Of course, the E-Class, the S-Class or the Maybach, which is specially designed for China, are unbeatable for individual guests or groups of two . "But when colleagues are together, they want to drive together and not sit alone in the car for half the evening," says Adam and proudly lets his gaze wander over the fleet of his star cruisers waiting for their passengers in front of the posh Opposite House.
Important customers for Mercedes
You can see the same pride on the face of Marcus Breitschwerdt, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, when he reports from the Far East: “China is an extremely important and steadily growing market for us and the V-Class is clearly the most important here Growth driver for us: Every fourth V-Class worldwide drives on Chinese roads. "
So it's no wonder that Breitschwerdt willingly accommodates its most important customers: You can take that literally after the Swabians have been producing the V-Class since 2016 in a joint venture with Fujian Benz Automotive in the 600.000 square meter plant in Fuzhou. And of course that also applies in a figurative sense. Because while the Europeans had to sit on conventional armchairs for a long time, in China they had already screwed lounge chairs into the rear, which offer almost as much backrest angle and footrest as the executive seats from the S-Class - including the cuddly soft pillow on the headrest . And when they unveiled a facelift for the V-Class at the belated motor show in Beijing a few weeks ago, the long noses in the far west must have become a little jealous. Because while the upgraded interior design with brightly colored ambient lighting and a particularly large amount of wood in the rear is of course a question of regional preferences, the standard air suspension arouses a bit of resentment. While we have to dig deep into our pockets for this, the Chinese get this extra for free. Because comfort is the be-all and end-all there, according to the headquarters in Beijing, and the most important passengers in the V-Class in China usually sit in the back instead of in front. And because a life without WeChat is almost impossible for the Chinese, MBUX not only gets along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but also integrates the omnipresent messenger and payment service into the expanded infotainment system - this is a concession that other markets have come to expect can wait a long time.
Shuttle service provider Adam will also soon switch to the new generation and drive the night owls from Sanlitun through the capital at dawn. Hardly anyone would then be interested in WeChat and the music on the QQ server, but only in the cloudy chassis and the comfortable seats. Because as soon as they left, most of the passengers fell asleep.